Mountain upon a phosphorescent sky. JAMES McDOUGALL
(Impulsive Habitat 2010)

‘Mountain upon a Phosphorescent Sky’ has to be one of my favourite releases from netlabel Impulsive Habitat. Recordist James McDougall has excelled at combining field recordings made across Australia’s D’Aguilar Mountain Range to create a twenty minute piece that is brimming with a palpable intensity which becomes almost tangible at times.

There is a distinctive arc to McDougall’s composition. We begin with a sense of tension, of pent up energy, of some force on the horizon just waiting for release. What we are dealing with here is the imminence of an approaching storm. The piece begins with the constant drone of ceiling fans vainly trying to diffuse the all-encompassing heat. As the minutes pass, the intensity of the situation increases and the listener is taken outside into the natural world. Cicadas take full advantage of the heat which warms their tymbal muscles and, alongside a lone bird, combine their voices with buzzing power lines that cut through the mountain range

Then, the gentle patter of rain and the rumble of distant thunder. Change is on the way. Heavy raindrops falling onto a metal roof gradually dominate the soundscape before the thunderstorm makes its presence known. It is incredibly difficult to make a good recording of a thunderstorm, with so much potential for distortion, but McDougall has flown through this with flying colours. I wonder if I’ve ever heard such a fine and evocative example of a thunderstorm in full swing. It’s really wonderful to experience.

Eventually the storm moves away across the mountain range and we are left with the aftermath of this retreating force of nature. The tension has been broken and the environment slowly returns to a state of stability.

I wanted to conclude my review with something deep and meaningful, something poetic or possibly even spiritual. I decided against this though – why use 50 words when 4 will do. I simply love this. My advice would be to stop what you are doing, visit Impulsive Habitat, find ‘Mountain upon a Phosphorescent Sky’, download the package, sit back and, most importantly, enjoy what this composition from James McDougall has to offer. You really won’t be disappointed.

-Cheryl Tipp

JamesMcDougall website
Impulsive Habitat website 

Cheryl Tipp

Wildlife sounds curator at British Library.